Clarity First Newsletter,
December 4, 2020

“Life is only limited by our prejudices. Destroy them, and you cease to be at the mercy of yourself.”                                                                            – Mina Loy

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Here in Western Massachusetts the leaves have fallen and the skies are gray. Even at midday the sun is at such a low angle that it casts only a soft luminosity, then it snuffs out completely before evening.

In less than two weeks the solstice will be here, and then the light will start to return.

Happy Friday.

Community, Collective Intelligence

Why liberals and conservatives consider each other bonkers

One of the most sobering aspects of the extreme cultural divide that is being revealed worldwide is the recognition that for as long as humans have recorded history we have recorded the very same dilemma. Yet, if what the Dali Lama says is true – that we must develop a sense of universal responsibility for the earth and all humanity, that working together as one is the only way we’ll survive the climate crisis – then learning to close this gaping chasm is existential.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU, has been asking this question for his whole career. His research suggests that contrary to popular belief humans are not born as a blank slate. Instead, we are born with what he calls a “first draft” or moral knowledge, innate but still malleable sets of values “organized in advance of experience”. He and his co-researchers found five primary categories that serve as our moral foundation. Both conservatives and liberals share two of these. But it is the three foundational values that we don’t share that help explain why liberals and conservatives in America think that “the other side” is bonkers.

Article: Why Conservatives Can’t Understand Liberals (and Vice Versa)

Economy, Inclusion

Discrimination hurts just about everyone, not only its direct victims.

“New research shows that while the immediate targets of racism are unquestionably hurt the most, discrimination inflicts a staggering cost on the entire economy, reducing the wealth and income of millions of people, including many who do not customarily view themselves as victims.

“The pernicious effects of discrimination on the wages and educational attainment of its direct targets are being freshly documented in inventive ways by scholarship. From the lost wages of African-Americans because of President Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the Civil Service, to the losses suffered by Black and Hispanic students because of California’s ban on affirmative action, to the scarcity of Black girls in higher-level high school math courses, the scope of the toll continues to grow.

“But farther-reaching effects of systemic racism may be less well understood. Economists are increasingly considering the cost of racially based misallocation of talent to everyone in the economy.

Article: Racism Impoverishes the Whole Economy


Seth Godin has some very simple advice about learning.

“For nearly fifty years, I’ve been teaching canoeing up in Canada. The first rule is clearly the most important: the best way to learn is to get into the boat.”

Article: Where Does Creativity Come From?


For many employees, the key motivator is a sense of purpose—and yet more than half of those surveyed say they’re not even “somewhat” passionate about their jobs. 

“If organizations want to inspire their workers, they must clearly communicate why they’re in business and what value they provide. When employees understand and embrace those things, their companies thrive: Survey results show that more than 90% of companies with a well-defined purpose deliver growth and profits at or above the industry average.

“An effective purpose statement, the authors say, answers several questions: Why does our organization exist? Who are we serving? What value do we offer, and why are we uniquely capable of providing it? But a powerful statement is not enough; firms must also deliver on their promises to customers. That requires putting the right people in the right roles, breaking down silos to facilitate cross-functional collaboration, investing in the areas that matter most, and ensuring that leaders demonstrate every day, through their words and actions, their commitment to the firm’s articulated goals.”

Article: Why Are We Here?

Social Media

A good meme is a terrible thing to waste.

Article: 11 of the Most Creative Brand Monolith Memes

Personal Productivity, How We Work

The “slow work” movement prioritizes meaningful and measured productivity, alongside dedicated time for breaks.

I’ve been working at home since the oughts. I’m an old hand at Zoom. During the pandemic I’ve learned something new: the power of dedicated breaks. For reading for pleasure. For listening to music. For connecting with partners and friends.

Article: Why This Pandemic Winter is the Perfect Time to Try Out ‘Slow Work’

Advertising, Social Messaging, Corporate Social Responsibility

What started in 2011 with “Don’t Buy This Jacket” continues with a creative call for defiant climate action.

(Now read that headline bottom up.)

“What on first read comes off as a fatalistic resignation, when read backwards becomes a defiant call to action. It’s an overall sentiment that appropriately embodies the outlook of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. While he told The L.A. Times as far back as 1994 that the plight of the earth amid climate change was “hopeless,” he remains unwaveringly committed to doing the hard work for the best possible outcome.

“We live in a time of elaborate advertising across any and every media. The power here is in the ad’s creative simplicity. The reversible copy, using words alone to create two opposing ideas in one statement, grabs your attention by forcing you to reconcile your own battle between optimism and cynicism. It’s expressed in one of the most rudimentary forms of marketing we have left—a print ad! It’s the advertising equivalent of a perfectly cooked steak.

“The new ad is part of Patagonia’s broader ‘Buy Less, Demand More,’ campaign around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which includes a more straightforward pitch for the brand, outlining just how it’s working to get to a more healthy future, and how we as consumers can help.”

Article: Patagonia’s Reversible Poem Ad is a Check on Runaway Black Friday Cyber Monday Spending

Social Messaging, Graphic Design

Maps used to persuade

This 1941 map by Jean Fort depicts U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a tug-of-war over Africa. It was made for the German propaganda unit in then occupied France. It is one of 13 examples of the use of maps as propaganda curated by National Geographic. They are all currently hung in an exhibition called ‘War Map’ at the Map House in London.

Article: These Colorful Propaganda Maps Fueled 20th-Century Wars


How to Help a Friend Through a Tough Time, According to a Clinical Psychologist

Our Brains Explain the Season’s Sadness

The Science Behind Expressing Gratitude Will Surprise You

A Mission to Make Virtual Parties Actually Fun



“This December 11th, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band LP turns 50. It was his first full-length solo album following the breakup of The Beatles, and it still astonishes me that an artist as famous and iconic as John Lennon could create and release a piece of work so vulnerable, personal, and specific to his inner life, and yet make it so universal.

“The band features old friends Ringo Starr on drums, Klauss Voorman on bass, and Billy Preston on piano. The production credit goes to Phil Spector, but really it was Yoko who made it happen. It’s raw, acerbic, unguarded, challenging, honest, and accessible… all at once. Way ahead of its time. It is one of my all-time favorite records, and a true ‘desert island’ pick for me.” – Brenden Hogan

Article: WUMB December Program Guide | John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band 50th Anniversary

Album: John Lennon/Plastic One Band Full Album (Remastered)


Image of the Week

The image of the week is the work of Chicago based artist Patty Carroll. It is from the latest iteration, titled ‘Demise’, of her ongoing series ‘Anonymous Women’. Here is the description from Patty’s site:

“‘Anonymous Women’, consists of a 3-part series of studio installations made for the camera, addressing women and their complicated relationships with domesticity. By camouflaging the figure in drapery and/or domestic objects, Carroll creates a dark and humorous game of hide-and-seek between her viewers and the Anonymous Woman.

“In the latest narratives, ‘Demise’, the woman becomes the victim of domestic disasters. Her activities, obsessions and objects are overwhelming her. Her home has become a site of tragedy. The scenes of her heartbreaking end are loosely inspired by several sources including the game of clue, where murder occurs in one of five rooms of the house: Dining Room, Kitchen, Hall, Conservatory, and Library.”

Article: The Jealous Curator: Patty Carroll

This week a bow and a tip of the hat to Real Clever Issues for pointing me to the article about liberals and conservatives, and to the cool GIF, to my friend and colleague Jennifer Marrapese for noticing the Patagonia ad, to my friend and collaborator Liz Solomon for sharing the  story about propaganda maps, and to my friend Vincent Valvo for reminding me that Plastic Ono turns 50 next week.


What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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